Absent from the Book Fair / Miguel Iturria Savón

Not even an enormous Persian magic carpet would be big enough to bring to the Havana Book Fair, running from February 9th to 19th at La Cabaña, a sample of the extensive work of fiction, poetry, essays and historiography of exiled Cuban writers and those excluded from within the island for reasons other than literary.

The International Book Fair of Havana, which travels later to the libraries of the provincial capitals, remains the monopoly of state, though it includes the publishing of other nations that previously declared their titles and promote the classics of world literature, whose works contain nothing that contradicts the official taboos.

Such an impoverished perception marginalizes many authors who lose contact with their natural readers; meanwhile, it strengthens the “gentle” or supersaturated the stands with pamphlets whose historical and political titles provide food for moths.

In this 21st edition of the Fair, “dedicated to the cultures and peoples of the Caribbean” and to the Cuban writers and researchers Zoila Lapique and Ambrosio Fornet, attendees will have five or six volumes of the re-vindicated Virgilio Piñera (Cárdenas, 1912 – Havana, 1979), who is celebrating his first hundred years, and a bunch of texts on Afro-Cuban themes, religious, sexual and gender violence, but nothing in black and white that presents our national problems veiled by censorship.

Among the absentees will be exiled writers and those internally exiled because they do not share the discourse of power. We will not enjoy, for example, the novels and tales of Novás Calvo, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Reinaldo Arenas or Guillermo Rosales; the poets Gastón Baquero, Heberto Padilla and Raúl Rivero; the dramas of José Triana; the essayists Jorge Mañach, Carlos A. Montaner and Rafael Rojas; the biographies of Carlos Márquez Sterling nor historiographical legacy of Levi Marrero and Manuel Moreno Fraginals.

Among the absentees are also Guillermo Rosales, Reinaldo Bragado, Carlos Victoria, Roberto Valero and Eliseo Alberto Diego, all dead and unpublished on the island. Names such as Zoe Valdés, Wendy Guerra, Uva de Aragón, José A. Conte, Jorge A. Aguilera, Emilio Ichikawa, Néstor Díaz de Villegas, Amir Valle and a long list that includes writers who remain in Cuba and columnists and bloggers who assume freedom of expression in other formats.

The books go beyond the time of acquisition, but among the offers of the Havana fair there are irremediable absences, marked by the burden of censorship, the abundance of volumes as useless as they are legitimizing and the demonization of suspect creators and infidels.

Take, for example, several titles from Cuban authors published outside the island recently that could be marketed on the shelves of the fortress of La Cabaña and other libraries in Cuba. This applies to:

  • Vicente Garcia, the misunderstood Cuban Major General, from the historian Henry Ross, from Ediciones Universal, Florida, USA.
  • Inside Havana, from the architect and developer Julio Cesar Perez, on the history and architecture, available in Cuban Art News.
  • Anecdotes of the Great, Vera Israel, with reviews and pictures of Cuba.
  • Cubans: faces into oblivion, a collection of photographs from Yamila Lomba.
  • A man knocks on the door in the rain, by Rodolfo Perez Valero.
  • Cuban Espionage in the United States: The Wasp Network, by Pedro Corzo.
  • Church and Revolution in Cuba, by the Bishop Enrique Perez Serantes (1883-1968).
    Gatuperio, stories of Guillermo Arango.


February 14 2012